(Part 2) Some Revolution Questions That Needed Asking

Having submitted a few burning business/operations questions to Revolution COO Brian Bilello already, I figured I would continue to take up the Revolution’s generous offer and ask some of Mike Burns as well.   (See the first discussion here.)

The good news is on the “soccer side” of things, I don’t know of anyone who can question the soccer specific focus or knowledge of the staff.  Steve Nicol is nearly sainted in these parts, and Michael Burns (if not everyone’s idol) certainly seems worthy of respect.

I’ll caveat this blog with the understanding that I only have public information.  Luckily, that includes a decent review of salary information from the MLS Player’s Union and statistics from websites near and far.

I do not, however, know all the intricacies of contracts and the detail of some MLS transfer and personnel rules. Some of this is easy to find, some not.  If my assumptions are off base, I’d love to understand more by those who know it.

Question: I’m sure this is a question that will be posed time and time again, but can you describe the roles of both Steve Nicol and yourself when scouting, drafting and acquiring players?

Why I ask: To be fair, when player additions turn out well, fans praise Steve Nicol.  When player signings appear to  go poorly, fans blame Mike Burns.  Perhaps everyone has it all wrong?

Question: I would imagine that it helps to have a specific “style” of soccer in mind when scouting players.  I wondered, is there a “shared vision” of how the New England Revolution believe soccer should be played?  What is it?  Does it affect the choice of players we sign?   Does this vision extend to your burgeoning efforts in youth development?

Why I ask: If the Revolution has a chosen style of soccer, I want to be the first to hear it defined.  I would humbly suggest – especially now that the team has been mandated into the youth development world – that such a vision should be created if it does not already exist.

If the team strives to be something special, why not start with a view how soccer should be played in a Revolution jersey?  This instills a sense of direction, player pride, fan appreciation and consistency of purpose that spans management personnel and the ups and downs of any particular season.

Question: Have any creative options been discussed internally or with the league about the ongoing uncertainty of Taylor Twellman’s recuperation and what it means to the Revolution roster?

Why I ask: Taylor Twellman is a great goal-scorer.  If possible, Revolution fans would start him in the next game all foreseeable games after that.  I also don’t know of any fans that have any doubt if Taylor could be playing, that he would be playing.

That said, Taylor is not playing.  In fact, he played only twice last year and not at all this year.   Nobody has complained that he’s still with the team.   Nobody has mentioned the (contractually obligated?) raise of nearly forty thousand dollars he got in 2010.

But there comes a point in a salary capped league, when a star player simply cannot play that a team must make some hard calls.   And that is why I ask about creative options, and I certainly hope my team has smart people thinking more shrewdly than their peers at other teams.

With that backdrop, help me see why this couldn’t have worked… I see the potential for Taylor to have “retired” from active playing and be “hired” as an Assistant Coach.   (“Striker’s Coach”)

He could still get paid a nice salary, not be counted against the salary cap and have been able to train with the team every day, just like now.   And when he’s healthy?  Oh, I imagine there would be some players could be moved.   For instance, some other expensive ($240,000?) strikers that haven’t played the equivalence of two full MLS games this year.

What MLS rules would that have broken?

Question: Continuing on the theme of being creative… my understanding of the newly updated Designated Player rule is that each DP now costs less to a team in overall salary cap money.  If there are no plans to add a Designated Player soon, wouldn’t you immediately take Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph and make them DP’s?  This would save us money under the cap, which could (of course) be reinvested in other roster slots as raises or, dare I say, upgrades.

Why I ask: Again, my understanding of MLS rules might be all wrong – there is not much specificity in the Regulations here. (Happy to learn more.)

Or the Revolution might be about to sign two big-name Designated Players.  (Happy to hear it.)

However, I’d hate to think that nobody is thinking far enough outside the box to come up with this stuff if it does make sense.

Question: Do you think Designated Players, if/when brought in, should have both soccer and marketing value associated with them?

Why I ask: I suspect there could be some fan disagreement with this, but I certainly do.

Do you want Ronaldinho more than a younger, also-talented, non-Brazilian to fill the stadium?  I say yes.

Do you consider Deco (who’s currently out of the picture at Chelsea) because he’s a creative player that might excel in front of Shalrie Joseph and is used to fast and physical play, or because he has generates interest to both the Brazilian and Portuguese fans in the area?   I say both.

Question: It’s great to have Steve Ralston back.  (Well, sorta back – enough already with the injuries.)  Nobody discounts his desire to help his home town, but if there was a quick and easy contract discussion at the end of last season, would we really ever had to have said goodbye?

Why I ask: I have written about Steve Ralston’s return before.  (See blog here.) But I know of very few people who believe that Steve, without provocation, decided to leave to help start A.C. St. Louis simply because of a desire to get soccer moving in his old home town.

I think most fans understand the pressures under the salary cap, but even under a quick glimpse at Niouky and Khano Smith alone I see about $100,000 ready to cover a good chunk of Steve’s salary.  And yes, I think the fans would take a two-for-one deal on that one.  (Note – yes, I realize that some other low-salary players would take up roster space in their place… I’m just making a point.)

Question: Over the last few years, what would you say has been your biggest success area related to bringing new players on board, and what has been the area that has troubled the team the most?

Why I ask: Most fans see the Revolution as having had great success in the MLS draft, but mediocre value from its (often much more expensive) international signings.   This could be based on a limited scouting network outside the US, considered a “fact of life” for bringing in international players, or something else.   I’d be curious how management sees it.

—–

Well, there are many more questions that could be asked, but Father’s Day has turned over into a work day, and I best get some sleep.

Thanks again, Revolution, for this offer of submitting questions.  My edited list from above will be on your blog shortly.

Tag, you’re it.

New England Revolution: Stink, Brink and Other Over-Reactions.

Having last written about budding optimism about the New England Revolution’s current state, I now sit here at 36,000 feet on a cross country flight worried.  

About what?  Stink and brink.  Stink, as in “they stink.”   Brink, as in “franchise on the brink.”

I’ll freely admit that before going off the grid for my flight’s take-off, I was barraged in the Twitter-sphere about Shalrie Joseph’s “indefinite leave” from the Revolution to take care of personal matters.  (I wish him all the best and a quick return.)   This barrage has spun me into a reactionary state . . . which I’m sure is bad for my sanity, but turns out to be pretty good for blogging.

The importance of Shalrie to the New England Revolution is no secret, and something I’ve talked about before in “The Steve and Shalrie Show” and elsewhere – but that anyone who watches the Revolution with their eyes open can see.

Do the Revs stink?  Maybe not.  But they’re not great.

The Revs have always found ways to have terrible performances mixed in with their usually Eastern Division strength.  “This too shall pass” we might think.

Perhaps winning isn’t out of the question, I remember sitting in the 2002 MLS Final with 61,000-plus friends cheering the Revolution though for much of the season I found the (hard working team’s) soccer hard to watch.

Watching how Steve Nicol deals with the cards he’s been dealt – including indefinite absences of two of his best players and two largest salaries – Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph – will be very interesting.  

There’s always talk of building the “spine” of a team . . . right up the center of the field.   The Revs first choice goal keeper is out injured.   The Revs center-back, Cory Gibbs, is new to the Revs system.  The star midfielder is, uh, on hiatus.   The star forward is still dizzy, or at least not playing.  

Nicol (and Mike Burns, and company) did what he had to – including the clearly difficult decision to trade Jeff Larentowicz – to shore up that spine.   Capable Preston Burpo came in to man the nets in the same trade that brought us the solid Gibbs.   They have tried every forward we can afford to replace Taylor Twellman, and they’d still not hesitate to stick him in the starting eleven immediately if/when he says he’s ready.

Now that Shalrie’s taking care of personal business, that trade suddenly stings – especially as Jeff came into town and with mid-field counterpart Pablo Mastoeni – controlled the Revolution’s home pitch for most of the game.   Meanwhile, Burpo watched a few awkward long-range shots sail into the net.   

All is not lost . . . as examples, my optimistic view from a couple weeks ago still holds in some areas. Sainey Nyassi appears to have matured significantly and Marko Perović seems to have unique and impressive skills.   The Revolution rookies appear to be MLS caliber.  Etc.  Etc.

What I just described though is a group of maturing – or otherwise unproven – players that will need to play out of their skin to make this season something to remember.

Which brings me to this franchise being on the “brink.”   The on-field challenges are one thing, and if anyone will steer them to a good show this year, it’s Steve Nicol.   Being “memorable” though, is a bigger challenge.

But who will steer the franchise into relevance?  Who will help it become loved?   I’ve not seen signs that there is an answer forthcoming.   I do believe that people are trying, but the Revolution are from where they need to be.

One plane ride isn’t enough to come up with the ingredients of a successful MLS franchise.  But a common sense top-five list of what a team must have, might look something like this:

  1. Recognizable star players with skill, personality and a fan following.
  2. An attractive brand of soccer. (especially important in winning over skeptical MLS fans)
  3. A trophy winning record.  (especially in a market that’s grown accustomed to winners)
  4. Professional credibility that merits respect.
  5. A lively, community-oriented, memorable experience for fans.

I’ll likely want to expand on that list after more thought . . . but even if we consider that 5 of 20 things that a successful franchise needs, the Revolution are clearly on the brink.

How do they line up? 

  1. Most recognizable star?  Taylor Twellman.  Currently easier to find on Twitter than on the field.  (Not his preference, I’m sure.  I hope for his speedy return and full recovery.)
  2. Style?  Given the challenges to personnel this seems like quite a reach.
  3. Winning some games is probably more likely than attractive soccer – but at risk as well.
  4. Credibility? The Revolution playing in Gillette look like a little boy in daddy’s suit.   Speaking of clothes, why no shirt-sponsor?  Wait, I cannot find a jersey to buy anyway.
  5. There are two communities.  Supporters and those sitting on their hands. And they are separated by a stadium.

So I’ll be on the lookout for signs that I’m wrong and that the lackluster attendance, local chatter and momentum is just a temporary phenomenon.  Or signs that I’m right and major changes are coming.  

But aside from that, I’ll fly across the country over-reacting as I fester in bad news for the Revolution and for one of our greatest ever players that actually does engender fan “love.”

Was my optimism in my last post premature?  Yes.

Are my “stink” and “brink” concerns an over-reaction?  I sure hope so.

The Revolution Was Televised

For the New England Revolution fan that, like me, was not fortunate enough to make the stadium today, there was a question as to whether or not we’d tonight’s game on TV.  You see, some green/white basketball team apparently had a game at the same time.   Luckily, some odd arrangements were made by all involved (Thank you!) and even on my not-so-glamorous Charter Communications cable, I was able to watch.

So not only was the (New England) Revolution televised, but it was a bit of a Revolution on the field.   Against what?  Against the pessimism that most Revs fans have had about this season – and potentially against the status quo on the field.

The pessimism was palpable a few weeks ago.

  • Steve Ralston is gone?
  • Paul Mariner no longer prowls the sidelines?
  • Jay Heaps is an announcer, not a defender?
  • Jeff Larentowicz is not part of red-and-dread anymore?
  • Matt Reis is hurt?
  • Taylor Twellman is still perpetually dizzy?

Hopes were at rock-bottom.  

Then however, a few things happened.  The Revs visited the Los Angeles Galaxy  and “only” lost 1-0 – and that without Shalrie Joseph in the lineup. 

Then the Revs went to D.C. United and Kenny Mansally wowed everyone watching by pulling a 2-0 victory out of an otherwise stale match, where the Revs were outplayed for large stretches.  

Thoughts changed to “maybe we can scrape through this year.”

Then there was tonight.  A 4-1 victory against division rivals Toronto F.C.   Yes, Toronto helped the Revs a bit, with at least two of the goals coming from rather silly defensive errors.  But a 4-1 victory is a 4-1 victory.   People’s hopes are buoyed . . . and not just because of the score. 

Why else?

  • Shalrie is back bossing the midfield.
  • Kevin Alston remains terrific.
  • Players who were unremarkable last year appear to have more confidence this year.  Sainey Nyassi – great game.  Chris Tierney – is it the move to midfield?  He appears way more confident and dangerous than last year.
  • Two rookies – Seth Sinovic and Zack Schilawski – started and looked like veterans.  Zack gets a hat-trick on his first home game.  Seriously?  Sinovic deals with DeRosario. (Steve Nicol remains a king of the MLS draft.)
  • Turns out Preston Burpo knows how to play goal and Cory Gibbs knows how to play defense.  (Duh.)

I could go on, but you get the idea.

One point should not go missed though, that gives me greater hope than even most of those just mentioned.   Tonight we got to see our first glimpse of Marko Perovic.   Having come on late in the game against a down-trodden Toronto F.C. is probably not the best way to judge a new player.   But, from what I saw, Perovic is for real, and will quite possibly remake our midfield.  He showed touch that is uncommon in MLS, taking more than one ball out of the air and directly to the feet of a teammate.  (They almost seemed surprised.)  He appears to have top-notch ball skills, and at 6’ 1” seems to have a physique that won’t get pushed around in MLS.   I noticed a number of occasions where he made a quick pass, moved into space and hoped to have the ball played back quickly – which generally it was not.   

Give his teammates time with him (he arrived yesterday) and I am extremely interested to see what he can do.   Steve Ralston will never be forgotten, but with a skillful, sizable and productive (yes, I’m way ahead of the evidence here) 26-year-old in midfield – the Revs may be able to move on.

Yes, the Revolution game was televised.  

But judging by the youth movement and a very promising new arrival, maybe there was more than one Revolution going on tonight.

The New England Revolution’s Steve and Shalrie Show

For fans of the New England Revolution this has been a pretty tough offseason.  Reading a very interesting interview with Steve Nicol at FoxSoccer.com made it very clear that there are some very interesting hurdles to make it over this year.

  • Paul Mariner: Hugely respected Assistant coach with vast experience and knowledge – gone.   What did Nicol have to say in the interview? “To be honest you can’t replace him” 
  • Jay Heaps: Defensive leader who was part of the “soul” of the team – gone.   Heaps wasn’t called out in the interview, but Nicol glowed about Heaps the player/man during his retirement event.
  • Jeff Larentowicz: Half of our reliable, trusted midfield core – gone.   In the interview, Nicol says “Jeff was huge for us. . .”
  • Steve Ralston: Team captain and a player that made all the others around him better – gone.   Nicol, though asked about Twellman and Ralston, only commented on Twellman’s importance.   Interesting, as they were probably negotiating Ralston’s contract . . . and we saw how that ended.
  • Taylor Twellman: Goal machine and often the “face” of the Revs – still here, still trying to get well.
  • Matt Reis: Confidence inspiring keeper, one of the best in the league: out injured.
  • Chris Albright: While less of a Revolution mainstay, an experienced player with a winning tradition – gone.

So where does that leave the Revs?  Enter the Steve and Shalrie show.  

Steve Nicol, the longest tenured coach in MLS is the one constant in this team over the last few years.   He is respected by players and other coaches alike, due to his stewardship of the Revolution as well as his history as a Liverpool great and Footballer of the Year.   Last year his managerial skills were tested during an injury filled campaign that left him without key players (Twellman, Albright, Ralston to name just a few) for long stretches of the season.   The team made the playoffs, but rarely dazzled.   Given the roster issues, that’s probably considered a success.   Unless some major acquisitions are announced before the season, Nicol will again need to wring out the most of an unspectacular roster.  

One area of interest – and big question mark so far – will be what Steve’s draft choices can offer.   MLS draftees are typically less impactful than in some other major sports, but the Revolution have been among the best at pulling solid MLS players from the draft, and often, MLS standouts.  Surprisingly stellar rookie campaigns from Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes last year helped buoy a troubled back line.   It will be interesting to see if a similar magic act is performed this year.

The other constant is the excellence of Shalrie Joseph.  Nicol put it this way in the recent interview, “How Shalrie Joseph does not win the MVP award is beyond me.”   Many Revolution fans agree, as do quite a few MLS watchers.   If Shalrie isn’t wearing the captain’s armband next season, there will quite a few fans scratching their heads during the season.  But Shalrie is only human.   His game is the engine that keeps the team humming, but the more that is asked of him – and the fewer trusted players around him – can only serve to lessen his impact.   He cannot simultaneously be the midfield general, defensive anchor and center forward.

So the Revolution Front Office and fan base have put their trust in Steve Nicol to steer the ship for the last few years and for the foreseeable future.  (A good choice.)   He has Shalrie Joseph – and Taylor Twellman, if healthy?? – and a band of supporting characters with which to work with in 2010.  He’ll need every ounce of coaching to make this season work, but a couple pre-season signings wouldn’t hurt.  (I see they’ve already hit their “Steve” quota again despite Ralston’s departure with the addition of new Assistant Coach Stephen Myles.)

There are other signs of hope that we can dig through at another time.   But if Shalrie pulls up injured in pre-season, we’ll need to have Revolution fans – and their team manager –  hand over any sharp objects, belts and anything else they could use to end the misery.

Twellman on Terps, Dempsey, Nicol and more . . .

I thought this interview at Du Nord would be of interest for any New England Revolution fan.   Taylor Twellman talks about his injury, the University of Maryland program, his career, the US National team and personalities such as Steve Nicol, Paul Mariner and Clint Dempsey.   A few quotes I found especially interesting?

  •  “I’m there for the guys in the games, but I’m not going to sit here and lie to you: I miss playing. Because I know right now that team needs me and I need them.”
  • “Stevie, to me, should be in the running for the next national team head coaching job.”
  • “I’m a German type forward. I don’t think I’m really a Spanish-type forward. I don’t think I’ve ever done a stepover in my professional career.”   (Bob says . . . OK, that had me laughing)

When asked if the Revolution had done enough, in his view, to replace the talent they’d been losing.   He said “No.”

He also offered a thought on Clint Dempsey who “didn’t want to be here, never wanted to be here.”

A very good read. . .

“Cero a Cinco” Caps a Long Soccer Weekend

Well, that was quite a weekend of soccer.   My eyes hurt.

“Cero a Cinco”

Surrounded as I am by a large Colombian family of in-laws, I understand and revel in the “Cinco a Cero” (5-0) hysteria that rang down as a high-note of 1994 World Cup Qualifying when Colombia downed Argentina by that score in Buenos Aires.   Any Colombian of the right age will remember that night, or at least remember the hang-over from the partying that ensued.   And why not?

I never expected that today’s Gold Cup final could be the flip side of that for the USA vs. Mexico. Since this wasn’t a World Cup Qualifier, it certainly doesn’t carry the same weight as that Colombian victory . . . but Mexico really needed a victory like this against the US to set them back on the right path.  And I’m sure they are delirious South of the Border.  (Well, or in lots of places North of the border too, like Giants Stadium which looked like an Azteca preview party today.)

On Friday, I acknowledged that we didn’t yet know enough about our USA “B” team and that “. . . it’s Sunday against Mexico for the final where we’ll really learn something.”  Well, lesson learned.

Stepping back . . . a questionable penalty tilted the field toward the US goal and then the flood gates opened. The US team on that field is further away from the best 11 we’d start than the Mexican team was from their best eleven (since it certainly contained some first team starters.) And for good stretches of the match, the US looked as dangerous as Mexico.  At 0-5 though, none of that will matter, nor should it.

There is a bigger picture here, both in terms of the Gold Cup and the US v Mexico rivalry.

Gold Cup: As I noted on Friday, the pressure in the Mexico/Costa Rica Semi-Final was much higher than what the USA faced against Honduras – a representation of the fact that the USA’s group stages overall shouldn’t have been that hard to get through. Reaching the final inflated expectations which were brought down to earth in a hurry today. When we started this competition, everyone acknowledged this was NOT the best eleven for the USA but would provide an excellent growth opportunity and learning experience for a (mostly) young US Squad. Well, this is one lesson the players on that field won’t ever forget.

US v. Mexico: US fans have had it easy for a while. The USA has “owned” Mexico on our soil, beat them at the World Cup and overall had a pretty clear sense of superiority about them recently.  Is that real though? Are we better than Mexico? Probably need to define “better” . . . our best eleven can beat Mexico’s best eleven, we’ve proven that. But be it the National teams or club teams (as evidenced in Superliga, CONCACAF Champions League, etc.), what was proven today is that there remains a pretty serious experience gap after you dig deeper into the roster.

Again, I’ll avoid player ratings here, as there will be too many offering opinions already. I heralded Jay Heaps for his improved play after a rough start . . . if I were clairvoyant, I’d have begged him to take the accolades and run for the hills.  Missed opportunities in the final third and tackles that needed to be all or nothing but missed that mark were shared by many. Risks were inevitable after the team was a down by a couple goals  . . . but the disintegration of the back line screamed for experience. Too bad Jimmy Conrad’s bell was rung against Panama, he might have helped.

The real question is what will happen on August 12th in Mexico City. Can new found confidence push Mexico to leverage the Azteca advantage and romp once more?  Will the USA “first-eleven” feel the need for some “revancha” in Mexico and be even more motivated than they already were?

MLS Games

Funny things happen when the New England Revolotuion can get some of their better players (Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston) on the field.   They win.   I have a secret (and perhaps unreasonable) hope that this season has some potential left. Why? Based on no-data to prove this it seems to me that many teams which start out gangbusters tend to run out of luck (injuries) or otherwise lose their way by the playoffs, whereas the teams who work through early season injuries/issues are fresher and more focused come playoff time. Hmmm, perhaps all we need to do is sneak into the playoffs and keep recovering from injuries.

David Beckham played and even shook a fan’s hand, but he didn’t score.  His captain did.  Both were out done by the more than half-field goal by Claudio Lopez.

I didn’t see the Red Bulls / Colorado game, but I didn’t really have to, did I?  RBNY really is THAT bad.  Unfortunate for MLS.   Hysterical for a Revs fan.

World Football Challenge

I struggled to care about these games. How is it possible that some of the best teams in the world are visiting and I struggle to care?  Frankly, it’s sad to me that the crowds are coming out for a pre-season warm up “competition” in such numbers as to suggest they had no other soccer to watch in this country. I thought Taylor Twellman’s (whose team gets maybe a third of today’s crowd) tweet said it all “gosh I wish the stadium filled like this for OUR games be so cool.”   Yes, it would . . .

Taylor also tweeted on the joys of playing on natural grass. Which makes me wonder . . . if it is feasible to install a grass field for some of these one-off games is it really out of the question for MLS to do something for the part of their season that doesn’t conflict with the NFL?

As for the AC Milan / Inter Minal game, the idea that this game was anything like a true “derby” is laughable if I’m being generous. I’ve been to a European derby (Chelsea/Arsenal), a Brazilian Derby (Fluminense/Flamengo — OK, preseason, but still) and actually stood in the last row of Inter’s Ultras at the amazing San Siro.   The intensity of those games is hard to describe.   What happened at Gillette earlier today pre-season warm up with a little extra juice than the others we’ve seen in this tournament.  But not much more.

Friday Musings on the Gold Cup

USA.  USA.  USA.

We beat Honduras.   Again.   What have we learned about the US “B Team” – if we can call them that?   They are pretty good.   But, it’s Sunday against Mexico for the final where we’ll really learn something.  Watching  the beginning of  Mexico/Costa Rica was like re-watching USA/Honduras in fast-forward – more energy, more pace. Sunday will be intense for the new US players.  Sadly the crowd will not be pro-USA in Giants Stadium and the pressure will be on.

I’d be OK with ‘dos a cero.’   Again.  Good times.

There are already lots of player-raters out there, so I’m not sure I have too much to add, but  . . .

  • Stuart Holden has the US fan base swooning.  I think he will/should make a strong run at the first team for qualifiers.  (Have I joined the man crush?   I suppose so.)
  • I’m happy for Jay Heaps (as an unabashed Revs fan), he was beaten up over his first performance in the Gold Cup (mostly deserved) and has bounced back like the battler Revs fans know he is.
  • I never want to think Brian Ching brings much to a game.  But he does.  (Not sure if my bias is a remnant Revs-fan-fueled debates of “should be Taylor Twellman getting Ching’s chances with the Nats” days of the past.)
  • I wonder if Michael Parkhurst or his club FC Nordsjælland expected he’d see the field after getting called back in.   They are all probably just as happy he stays injury free.

Add a few countries, get a few fans . . .

What a world of difference an international competition(s) makes – attendances have been strong for both the Gold Cup and World Football Challenge.   However, do ‘we’ do all we can to use these games as a chance to build a “let’s go to the game” tradition that spills over into MLS?     Well, here’s a nice write-up from Goal.com on the atmosphere at last night’s double-header.   Lightning, rain, power outages and “extortion” (my word for $40 parking) weren’t enough to stop the fun.

Speaking of that parking cost . . .  Parking at a Chicago Fire game apparently costs $15 at Toyota Park which means the first-time Chicago-soccer attendees are incorrectly left with one more, pricey reason to not bother attending an MLS game.   Too bad . . .

I could get used to this . . .

Another competition . . . . another final.   Of course there is no comparison.  Of course the Confederations Cup was an unreal, unexpected and somewhat lucky run.   Of course the Gold Cup is stacked in our favor being played here in the good ol’ USA.   But I don’t care.   Arsenal fans used to have a shirt to the effect of “You win some, you tie some” during a crazy unbeaten streak they had a few years back.   Maybe the USA “Don’t Tread on Me” soccer theme will need the addition of “See you in the final.”

Never mind, I prefer the slogan we earned from last year’s Gold Cup.

“Champion.”